OLD SETTLERS DAY was for most of its history a county reunion. Even when the old settlers had passed on to their reward, it was yet regarded as
a get-together of friends and family from throughout the county. But changes were a 'comin.'
Three thousand were estimated to attend at Lanark in 1901, September 7, when farmers throughout the county arrived by wagon or buggy and the
train let off passengers specifically choosing OSD for summer entertainment. Two extra train coaches were necessary to hold the hundreds from
out-of-town. The following year, 1902, horse races were held at the Lanark Driving Park on the north edge of town, favorably commented on. However, only 600 to
700 attended due to "unpropitious weather." Raw and chilly.
Railroad tickets were cut by one and a third, round-trip, in 1903, which helped attendance soar to probably six thousand! The school athletic
clubs presented various contests although none were allowed to be held on Broad Street. Hometown talent was again the feature in 1904 when a two
hundred voice chorus sang. Mrs. Etta (Dr. TI) Packard led a special chorus of twenty-four voices in 1905 locals. Ball games were also held, probably in the
much-used ball park in the northeast corner of town where soon the canning factory would rise. Home talent filled the day.
The program varied in 1906 with a headliner of an exhibit of antique relics such as candlesticks, fat lamps, snuffers, coins, guns, dishes, etc.
They intrigued one and all now that modern times were upon us. James Garner was presented a medal for being the oldest settler attending ... 1834 his arrival.
August 15, 1907 was the first time in fifteen years the festivities were upset due to rain.
Two years later a motion was made to change the date/month to June. It was soundly defeated. Keep it the third Thursday in August.
"Come With Me, Lucille, In My Merry Oldsmobile," was a popular song long ago and could have been the theme for the parade in 1910 when there
was an ALL AUTOMOBILE parade ... Also a balloon ascension with a parachutist dropping from it.
Another departure from the routine, if there ever was one at OSD occurred in 1913 when the Lanark and Savanna bands led attendees to Joe Laird's
field over on the west edge (now a subdivision and across the street presently of PDQ Me). Hillary Beachey would make a flight in an airship. For 25¢
an admission was paid to the pasture where you could examine close up the flying machine and see it take off. Afterwards, there'd be a ball game.
Despite the vote to keep Old Settlers Day in the month of August, the reunion was held in June in 1914. Due to poor attendance the date was returned
to the third Thursday of the eighth month.
The Lanark Boosters drove OVER 100 MILES in twenty-eight automobiles to advertise OSD. A hundred twenty-five traveled the dusty roads,
tooting instruments and carrying handouts.
A grand tug-o-war headed the schedule in 1915. In 1916 thirty-six of the "hottest" girls in town (!!!) wore the most stylish of outfits, a sailor
middy-blouse and navy bloomers, of all immodesties, to ride a troop of ponies graded to size and color. Each girl wore a blue pennant on her back with the
name of the business house sponsoring them. "Old Doc Yak" and his famous automobile created lots of merriment. He surely couldn't have been as clever
and funny as the "Baileyville Hillbillies" were a few years ago, could he?
"Big Jim, the Roller-Skating Bear" was the attraction in 1917 at the Opera House. Was the Opera House the one on the east side of Broad, second
story, which had been transformed into a skating rink? Not the Opera House on the west side?
Naturally, in 1918 a patriotic theme was featured. School children on 'floats' were dressed as Uncle Sam or the Goddess of Liberty and so forth.
The procession debarked from the school down Locust Street to Broad where everyone paused to sing "America" with the unfurling of the county service
flag on which were sewn six hundred fifty stars representing each of the servicemen from Carroll.
1919 - Boxing Matches
1920 - Aeroplane flights planned ... "Stuntman" winding the propeller to start the motor, broke his arm.
1921 - 30 new tables to park but still not enough for crowds
1922 - Horseshoe Pitching contest
1923 - 50th Anniversary of OSD. Mrs. French, 98, of York was presented an upholstered chair. J.H. Hess, Lanark, 92, an 1861 settler of the town
1924 - Lanark town band, Lanark school band, Savanna boys band of 125 pieces played
1926 - An airplane gave rides for $3.00 each
1927 - Open air dance
1929 - Radio. Radio. Radio ... Modern technology right in our own town! Radio celebrities would often appear at OSD in future, as did early
regional television "stars" when it was in first years.
1931 - Another grand decorated parade. A merry-go-round and ferris wheel delighted or frightened riders. Did one of those rides belong to that
wonderful individual, Riley Lotzbaugh, who stored it in his warehouse, the former Christian Church on West Carroll Street? He also housed the laborers laying
the brick main street in the 1920s.
1932 - Concession stands allowed, concession rights sold.
1939 - 30 interested persons met to discuss cancellation of OSD due to all streets on the south side of the railroad tracks being torn up due to new water
and sewer system being dug; the north side streets would be ready at the time of OSD. First time cancelled since 1874.
1940-'41 - Free BBQ, coffee and cream given out by OSD committee.
No specific record is found of the annual reunion during World War II but in 1946 the Boy Scouts had a gas-powered airplane contest (kit made).
Plenty of lunch stands on main street where the festival was held for many years. The beloved basket dinner was long in the past, the central theme, old settlers,
The younger generation had taken charge and the agenda, atmosphere changed also. For many years a "celebrity" of some sort had been featured ...
one time country/western radio station WLS Chicago might appear even to the well-known fellow who gave the livestock reports. What was his name?
Or celebs from a Quad City television program. Remember Captain Ernie on TV? Costs, insurance, lack of enough volunteers all were responsible for
a dwindling in interest and the annual day was abandoned for some years until in the 1980s the public's attention began to turn to having a
community observance. The Bicentennial celebration had sparked those ideas a few years before. It would no longer be a county reunion but a lone town
sponsorship just like Chadwick Days; Shannon Homecoming; Dutch Days, Fulton; Petunia Days, Dixon and others of our neighbors. Participate in any of them if
for nothing more than being a spectator. "Days" are just one glue that holds us together. And might make a bit of money for some community improvement.
In 1875 a long poem was written about Old Settlers Days, the county-wide reunion, the end of which remarked:
"And (when) he came-ah! Who can doubt
He found the latchstring was always out."
Meaning that just about anywhere in the Northwest you'll find a friendly face or a hearty handshake to welcome you. But no upholstered rocking
chair and the observance is in June, not August per the age-old argument.